“You are a 13th year teacher,” I kept telling myself as 4th period turned into 5th. So why on Earth do I feel sweaty? Clammy? Ready to run out of my place of employment screaming with my arms waving frantically above my head? And then it happens: My principal enters the classroom and the bowling ball in my stomach churns and lurches. The Oscar Meyer bologna and cheese sandwich I had for lunch makes every effort to resurface. It is the day of my evaluation, the time of year I am formerly scrutinized. And despite countless past evaluations, the nervous energy still remains.
The first five minutes I feel too strict and martial. I am not my usual entertaining self. My 5th period students look as nervous as I feel because an administrator is situated in the back of the classroom. But despite the borderline panic coursing through me, I am still a stalwart proponent of the evaluation process. In fact, as sick as ti sounds, I would not mind if there were one or two more during the school year. Why? How can anybody with half a lesson plan in their head provide a positive spin on a setting that creates so much stress and anxiety?
1.) It is All About You
Sounds slightly narcissistic, right? But in a day and age that educators as a whole are being demonized for low standardized test scores, for misbehaving children, and classroom mismanagement, this micro-inspection of ones individual efforts is a welcome process. What am I doing that could be done more efficiently? What points can I make clearer to my students? Do I hold the line between teacher and student camaraderie and professional discourse? In my particular evaluation, I was rated extremely effective in almost every category, but I scored one major and perhaps (on my part) overlooked flaw: My classroom had the neatness of a war zone, except at very least landmines are more thorough in their destruction. This, I knew, was a daily and constant struggle, not a moment in which I had been “caught” in a rare performance of squalor. Point well taken, the evaluation can help a teacher new to the game or a seasoned veteran to perfect their craft. Classroom neatness is now a point that I reflect upon, making sure that students clean up papers and textbooks before dismissal from class.
2.) Enhancing Teacher / Managerial Relations
I have a difficult time calling my principal a boss, and I do not mean this as a slight or disrespect. The term “boss” can have negative connotations for many. I often picture a ruthless, frowning gentleman, sitting majestically behind an oak desk with a Donald Trump hairstyle. My principal portrays the complete opposite demeanor. Often during a post evaluation session, we will discuss what went right and wrong in the classroom, but will also take the moment to discuss life in general. Having the opportunity to openly converse in a casual atmosphere enhances a school’s general well-being, the rapport between teachers and principals, and the dynamics of a successful educational setting. Indeed, students pick up on these communications and the positive environment gives them a feeling of security and a positive mindset as well. I have been immersed in a setting (ironically enough, in the same school) in which poor rapport had a direct correlation with lower standardized test scores.
3.) Honing Your Skills
Newly appointed educators can use their evaluation as a marker for areas they need improvement. My first challenge appeared colossal. I was a fresh-faced college graduate beset with students who had caused their previous teacher to walk out. Improving classroom management was my “entry point” to becoming a better teacher. While video-taping oneself has its merits, it can be of little assistance if one does not know what to look for. A second opinion from a well-traveled principal can help a new graduate master the skills of providing quality education, particularly when the evaluator’s opinion is honest, well-meaning, and specific. On the other side, the evaluated educator must take to heart any pearls of wisdom bestowed by the administrator. Skills improvement can only take place when one is honest about their strengths and inherent weaknesses. And is this not what all students deserve and all real educators, no matter where they are in their careers, strive toward?
Time has taught me classroom management, but effective evaluations have made my oversights more concise. My students work hard because of the camaraderie and attitude I display. Their behavior and class morale is a direct relation to my own managerial skills in the classroom. My development from a plucky young teacher to present day has flourished because I have manipulated advice from my superiors. These evaluations continue to steer me down my career path, braking and winding down the course with a knowing hand. My classroom setting (also known as my messy classroom) has been rated as “satisfactory,” but my principal and I know this rating was a bit of a professional courtesy. Tongue in cheek, it is my next on-going challenge: Transforming the classroom that appears as an apocalyptic landscape into one that would make Mr. Clean and Martha Stewart hold me high on their shoulders. The stress of an evaluation or two is well worth it.